In Time (2011)

In Time (2011) – I had a lot of reasons to root for this movie. The main one was that I am big fan of Andrew Niccol’s previous film Gattaca (as well as The Truman Show, which he wrote but did not direct). I even liked his lesser movies Simone and Lord of War. So I’m on his side, general speaking. I like the cast of this movie and the premise is cool (and potentially ripped off from Harlan Ellison who sued and had his name added to the credits, as he did with The Terminator). The cast is made up mostly of actors I like. So I was looking forward to it.

So it’s the future and everyone stops aging at 25. My first problem is a superficial one: while some of the cast members are over 25 but could easily pass for that age, the cast contains a couple of conspicuous 30-somethings like Cillian Murphy and Johnny Galecki. I guess it’s all relative. Back in the Depression, people in their early 20s look weathered so it’s not like everyone ages the same, but the fact that Murphy and Galecki ARE in their mid-30s was constantly on my mind when they were onscreen (by contrast, Vincent Kartheiser is also in his mid-30s but easily LOOKS 25). Anyway, suspension of disbelief and all that… so at 25 a clock in everyone’s wrist starts that will let them live for exactly one year. Time is LITERALLY money in this society. People are paid time for their work, and likewise have to pay time for their bills. The poor die young and the rich can live forever. The main plot centers around Will Sallas (Justin Timberlake) who is given over a century by a suicidal centenarian (Matt Bomer). After tragedy strikes Will’s mother (Olivia Wilde, three years Timberlake’s junior in reality) he decides to take on the system and the rich bastard maintaining it (Kartheiser). Said rich bastard has a daughter (Amanda Seyfried, one of the few cast members actually 25 or younger) who eventually becomes sympathetic to Will’s cause. Meanwhile a Timekeeper (a kind of cop played by Murphy) is hunting Will for threatening the status quo.

So in this time of Occupy [Wherever], the subject of the class divide is especially timely. The movie focuses largely on this crucial issue of our times… and then as it turns out doesn’t have much to say about it beyond “this is bad!” While there does seem to be a strong message of “people reaching obscene levels of wealth at the expense of their fellow man is wrong,” the allegory of the story is never really strong enough to carry this message through. The movie alternates between wanting to be strong social commentary (where it never entirely succeeds) or a straight-up sci fi action movie (where it does okay). The characterization do help the audience CARE about what happens beyond just being symbolic representations of modern class struggle. Timberlake, while nowhere near on the same level he was in The Social Network, does ground the movie somewhat with his perhaps-too-noble protagonist. Amanda Seyfried is adorable as the romantic lead. Kartheiser plays a great prick, but anyone who watches Mad Men already knew that. This is not a Gattaca-level film from Niccol, but as I mentioned earlier I tend to find his lesser movies entertaining as well. In Time isn’t a failure, it just doesn’t really do all that it could as a movie.

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